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Trump Monday press briefing: Military, mercenaries, the border wall, and unproven testing optimism

Trump Monday press briefing: Military, mercenaries, the border wall, and unproven testing optimism

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Trump rolled out the military at today’s coronavirus briefing

The presence of Todd Semonite, the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, only served to emphasize the president’s defensive posture, not so much against the coronavirus as against the negative press that the onslaught of reality that is constantly undermining the claims he makes about what a great job he and his administration are doing.

It was obvious that Trump is consumed with political paranoia and terrified that this pandemic will completely eliminate his chances at reelection, a prospect that in his particular case would remove the cloak of prosecutorial immunity that the presidency has temporarily granted him.

Trump wouldn’t need to be defensive if he were actually doing even a halfway decent job or at least admitting his mistakes and vowing to do better, but instead, he just repeats the same lies over and over and over again and wonders why reporters ask him questions that he considers hostile.

The Archie Bunker of presidents’ press conference monologues will be rich fodder for both historians, sociologists, and psychologists for generations to come.

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Here are a few of the highlights from today’s briefing though the live tweets issued by the seemingly indefatigable Daniel Dale, CNN‘s hard-working fact-checker, and the equally dedicated Aaron Rupar of Vox, both of whom deserve hazard pay for the mental toll that being forced to listen to these tortuous quasi-monologues from the prevaricating president must be taking on their psyches.

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(Side note: when my boss gets around to reading this, consider it an entry in the Occupy Democrats suggestion box for your own suffering workers.)

Trump began with the always least interesting part of these briefings, the part where he reads pre-prepared remarks like a bored student giving an oral book report that he obviously did not want to have to give.

He talked about the now negative price of oil, cheered the progress that some of the hardest-hit cities have made in flattening their new infection curves, and threw shade at state governors whose intelligence he insulted with condescension by saying that now that everything has been explained to them they will now be happy with the testing capabilities for the virus.

Trump has no trouble declaring that the pandemic is a bipartisan, non-political issue while spending a great deal of the press conference pushing his political agenda, his election, and attacking his critics — which since the latter now include some Republican governors — as well as the expected Democratic politicians — does make the criticism somewhat bi-partisan.

After calling on General Semonite to speak about the temporary field hospitals that the Army Corps of Engineers has constructed across the country, Trump asked the general to update the press on the building of the border wall that billions of dollars have been spent on that could have been used for pandemic preparation to replace the supposedly empty caches of ventilators and other medical equipment that he inherited and did nothing to remedy over his past three years in office.

The president also fails to note that on a per capita basis, testing in the United States still lags far behind many other countries.

Trump demonstrated his show and tell skills as he flipped through a stack of pages handed to him by Dr. Birx — who was attended without her usual counterpart, Dr. Fauci, who was conspicuously absent today — saying “These are all locations. That’s a lot of locations,” like an unqualified salesman at an electronics store showing you a piece of audio equipment while saying “look, it’s got buttons and switches. It’s a great unit!”

Trump praised his own prescience on trade policy despite the fact that his efforts have had little effect on reducing the globalization of supply chains and creating the promised domestic manufacturing jobs he campaigned on restoring.

As health care workers and governors still attest to the difficulty they are having in getting a sufficient number of tests to determine who is infected with the virus, Trump continues to mislead the public about the availability of the quantity of tests needed to safely end quarantine restrictions.

Glad that we have reporters who can help advise the president about what he should have thought about a long time ago. One would imagine that he should be thanking them instead of subjecting them to his usual paranoid conspiracy theories about how they are all trying to bring him down.

With all the military brass in the room, the president took the time to outline his vision of the US Armed Forces as global mercenaries, generating revenue by protecting other countries from their enemies and ensuring another global war does not break out through deterrence.

With a Mafia-like negotiator like Trump at their side — nice country there, it would be a shame if anything happened to it — America’s allies are likely reevaluating who their real enemies are.

Remarkably Trump avoided a major shouting match during the question and answer period with the assembled journalists, despite being challenged by PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor one of the black female reporters who has faced Trump’s anger for her questions in the past.

Trump used his technique of managing expectations when discussing the mounting death toll from the pandemic. Having been so severely burned by his “hunch”-based predictions that the virus would peter away with the heat during April, he began quoting much higher potential deaths so he could later claim that he beat those expectations, as he did today while claiming credit for saving so many lives with his claims of swift actions.

Another day of gaslighting ended on that cheerful note. Stay tuned for likely more of the same tomorrow.

With Trump’s acknowledged mastery of media manipulation, look for him to introduce new characters into what has become a tired and repetitious soap opera at this point. Time to get this plot moving along. People are getting restless, and there are better things to watch on TV than the endless reruns of the same old tired lies.

Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.

Original reporting by Aaron Rupar at Vox and by Daniel Dale at CNN.

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